February 25, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball Leaders and Laggards: Hitters’ HR/FB Ratio Edition

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Curtis Granderson, CF, New York Yankees

HR:FB ratio is to power what BABIP is to batting average and the two stats can often work together to give an overall picture of a hitters’ luck.

Take Adam Dunn, for example. Dunn hadn’t posted a HR:FB ratio under 20% since his rookie year…until last year’s 9.6% ratio. His BABIP had fluctuated between .237 and .329, but his power numbers were remarkably consistent…until he switched leagues, changed positions, showed up out of shape, needed an appendectomy and suffered through the unluckiest season of his career. Dunn also posted a .240 BABIP in 2011. His .240 BABIP was over 50 points off his career average. It wouldn’t be a shock to learn that his dog was hit by a car in 2011 because Dunn was that unlucky.

Much like BABIP, a hitters’ career average HR:FB ratio is important to take into consideration as is his GB:FB ratio. Players tend to be who they are. A player who post an average HR:FB ratio of 10% over his career will likely have a few outliers, but he’ll usually be within a standard deviation or two of his career average. It’s also possible for a hitter to change his approach at the plate and have that influence his HR:FB ratio. A sudden surge in the amount of ground balls or fly balls hit could signal a change in approach and needs to be considered when evaluating HR:FB ratios.

Park factors play a huge role in what happens to balls hit in the air. A ball landing in the cheap seats at New Yankee might only be a long out in Petco or Metco. Even the best power hitters are subject to the whims of the almighty luck dragon.

1. Mike Stanton 24.8%
2. Mark Reynolds 22.7%
3. Jose Bautista 22.5%
4. Prince Fielder 21.8%
5. Ryan Howard 21.7%
6. Matt Kemp 21.4%
7. Michael Morse 21.2%
8. Carlos Gonzalez 20.8%
9. Curtis Granderson 20.5%
10. Lance Berkman 19.9%

We have almost two full seasons of data on Mike Stanton and it’s obvious that he has the raw power to maintain much higher than average HR:FB ratios. Dude has a .264 career ISO. He can thump. This is what elite power looks like.

Mark Reynolds comes to stadiums to do two things. Chew bubblegum and hit homers. Well, he also strikes out at a 33.1% clip. So, he’s there to do three things. Reynolds is ownable as long as you can take the hit in batting average and your league doesn’t count batter strike outs as a category. He owns a 21.0% HR:FB ratio for his career. Last year was simply Mark being Mark.

2011 saw another wrinkle in the development of Jose Bautista. 2010 saw him break out mainly by trying to hit as many fly balls as possible. 2011 saw Bautista develop into a more well-rounded hitter. He increased his BB% from 14.6% to 20.2% last year. His BABIP shot up over 70 points from his .233 mark in 2010. He stopped putting everything in the air and made more of an effort to not blast everything into the cheap seats. His LD% increased from 14.4% to 16.0% and his GB% increased from 31.1% to 36.9%. His GB:FB ratio went from 0.57 in 2010 to 0.79 in 2011. He did this while maintaining a high HR:FB ratio. Joey Bats is elite and worthy of his position on draft boards.

Prince Fielder owns a 20.3% HR:FB ratio for his career. His 21.8% HR:FB ratio in 2011 was an elite dude doing what he does best. The concern for fantasy GMs should be the move from Miller Park to the spacious Comerica Park. Well, Miguel Cabrera moved into Comerica in 2008 and his numbers were…basically unchanged from 2007 in Miami. Prince Fielder is an elite hitter in any park. Moving to Comerica shouldn’t keep Prince off your roster.

Ryan Howard is a hard hitter to figure out for 2012 thanks in large part to his shredded Achilles’ tendon. His HR:FB ratio fell from 31.8% in 2009 to 21.1% in 2010 and stayed at 21.7% in 2011. The problem is that he’s still basically the same hitter, but he’s hitting fewer homers. The .250/.260 batting averages were fine when Howard was bashing 40-50 homers a year. It’s a little harder to stomach when he’s only hitting around 30 homers.

Matt Kemp enjoyed a career year in 2011 and posted a career high 21.4% HR:FB ratio. Hmmm. His HR:FB ratio was a lot higher than his 15.9% career average. His 23.2% LD rate was also a career high and played a big part in Matt’s career year. He’s an elite hitter, but his high HR:FB ratio combined with his career high .380 BABIP makes Kemp look like he was little lucky in 2011. He could be due for a regression back to his career averages. Fantasy GM’s shouldn’t really be concerned. Kemp’s career averages are better than most guys’ career years.

Mike Morse always looked like a guy who could hit, but he never got a chance at full-time at-bats…until 2011. Morse was a trendy pre-season sleeper pick and after a mini-breakout in 2010. Morse proved that his 2010 numbers weren’t a fluke and, other than a mediocre April, Morse is a legit source of power. He owns a 16.9% HR:FB ratio for his career, but those numbers were spread out in pieces of five seasons and he played half his(limited) career in Safeco. The numbers with the Nationals should be the numbers that fantasy GMs should trust.

Everyone thought that Carlos Gonzalez would be a regression candidate in 2011 and, well, he was. His BABIP plunged from a sky high .384 in 2010 to a mortal .326 in 2011, but he was able to maintain a lot of his value in fantasy baseball by maintaining his HR:FB ratio. The problem is he was unlucky on balls in play(compared to 2010) and he hit a lot of balls on the ground(1.44 GB:FB ratio up from 1.16 in 2010). CarGo needs to put the ball in the air more often in order to put up the numbers that fantasy owners expect. He bashed 34 homers with a 36.6% FB rate in 2010. His fly ball rate fell to 33.6% in 2011 and his production fell to 26 homers. He also posted a 48.4% GB rate. He put the ball on the ground almost half the time he made contact. It’s hard to post power numbers without hitting the baseball in the air.

Your computer should look and sound like a London ambulance when discussing Curtis Granderson’s 2012 fantasy prospects. His advanced metrics have all kinds of red warning lights and loud sirens. Granderson posted a 47.2% FB rate in 2010 and blasted 24 homers. In 2011, he posted a 48.0% FB rate and clubbed 41 homers. The difference was his 14.5% HR:FB ratio in 2010 versus his 20.5% HR:FB ratio in 2011. Granderson was really lucky on balls in the air and it shouldn’t shock owners to see Granderson’s numbers closer to his 13.9% career average. He’s due for a regression and most likely won’t return his top 20 draft status.

Lance Berkman rode a hot start to a solid season, but his regression has already begun. Fat Elvis posted HR:FB ratios over 30% in April, June and July, but faded badly down the stretch. Berkman posted HR:FB ratios of 5.9% and 4.5% over the last two months. It looks like Berkman was finally able to get healthy after two consecutive years of nagging injuries. The key for him is health and he’s entering his age 36 season in 2012. He’ll be fine as long as he doesn’t tweak any of his previously tweaked body parts.

1. Jamey Carroll 0.0%
2. Juan Pierre 1.4%
3. Darwin Barney 1.5%
4. Jason Bartlett 1.7%
5. Michael Bourn 1.8%
6. Alcides Escobar 3.0%
7. Placido Polanco 3.6%
8. Alberto Callaspo 3.8%
9. Omar Infante 3.8%
10. Jose Reyes 3.9%

Jamey Carroll hasn’t homered since 2009. He fits right in with the Twins team concept. Carroll should be avoided at all costs.

Juan Pierre actually outperformed his 1.2% career average. Pierre might be good for cheap steals, but he will hurt your power and counting stats if he’s not getting lucky on balls in play. Nothing to see here folks. Move along.

Do you think Jamey Carroll is a mentor to Darwin Barney or does he resent him? He’s either calling him after every game and congratulating his “hustle” for grounding out four times, but running HARD to first or he’s jealous. “Pffft. Two homers? Overachiever.” Barney has never shown any power or ability to get on base. He’s got to be one of the worst hitters to ever get 500+ PA’s in a season.

It took us three names on this list to get to a player that someone might actually have on a fantasy roster. Jason Bartlett broke out in 2009, but regressed badly in 2010 and found himself dealt to San Diego. San Diego is were mediocre hitters become bad hitters. His HR:FB ratios for the past three years have been 8.7% in 2009, 3.0% in 2010 and 1.7% in 2011. Which number looks like the outlier now? Bartlett might steal 20+ bags, but he’ll struggle to do anything else in any other category other than “Outs Made.”

The only time Michael Bourn’s GB:FB rate fell under 2.00 for a season was 2008. The same year he hit .229 and looked like he was a year away from becoming the world’s fastest insurance salesman. Michael Bourn has no business putting the ball in the air. The day Michael Bourn announces, Willie Hayes-style, “I’m a power hitter now,” fantasy GMs should immediately take his name off draft boards.

Alcides Escobar hit four homers last year? That sounds amazing. All it means was that he happened to put a baseball in the air at the exact moment a strong enough gust of wind appeared to push it past the fences four times. Escobar has very little power and should go out of his way not to put the baseball in the air.

Placido Polanco’s advancing age and string of nagging injuries has sapped what little power he had. Polanco was rosterable when he was hitting double digit homers. He’s not even worth a roster spot now that he struggles to hit five with little speed, run production and a mediocre batting average. He hasn’t posted a HR:FB ratio over 10% since 2004.

Alberto Callaspo’s 3.8% HR:FB ratio was right at his 3.9% career average. Power is not something anyone should expect from Callaspo…or run production…or stolen bases…or a really high batting average. Callaspo is a waiver wire material.

Omar Infante has posted double digit homers exactly once in his career. It came in 2004. The same year Placido Polanco “exploded” for 17 homers. It makes one wonder what could have been going on in 2004 that would have made guys with little to no power start posting competent homer totals. Infante posted an 8.9% HR:FB ratio in 2004. He hasn’t come close since then and likely never will.

Jose Reyes! Finally someone worth discussing! Sadly, his HR:FB ratio numbers are not worth discussing. Reyes has posted a HR:FB ratio over 10% exactly once in his career. He posted a 10.2% ratio during his career year in 2006. He’s been closer to his 5.9% career average ever since. Reyes isn’t using his greatest asset, his legs, when he puts the ball in the air. The concern with Reyes really isn’t his batted ball numbers, but his swing data. Reyes hasn’t posted a walk rate over 10% since 2009 and his contact% has been on an upward trend since 2006. He made contact 90.2% of the time he stepped to the plate in 2011. His plate discipline is trending in the wrong direction. He’s become more reliant on balls in play than ever and that’s not going to bode well for his future. Reyes will become an out machine of Pierre-ian proportions when he loses a step and can’t rely on his speed to turn outs into hits any more.


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